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Consumer Reports Health: Americans With Heartburn Paying Too Much Green For Nexium's 'Purple Pill'
Date:10/29/2009

This holiday season, settle your stomach, relieve your wallet

YONKERS, N.Y., Oct. 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Just in time for the holidays, when many of us may suffer from occasional heartburn, a new Best Buy Drugs report from Consumer Reports Health finds that you probably don't need an expensive drug like Nexium, the "purple pill," for relief.

The new report uses comparative effectiveness research to identify "Best Buys" based on safety, effectiveness, and price for Proton Pump Inhibitors, a class of drugs to treat heartburn and stomach acid reflux. The report found that no one drug works better than another and that all are relatively safe. However, some PPIs are far more expensive than others.

Last year, U.S. consumers and their insurance companies spent $4.8 billion on Nexium, one of six PPIs currently available, making "the purple pill" the second highest-selling drug in 2008, behind Lipitor. It's no wonder: a month's supply of Nexium has a retail price tag of up to $240 a month, compared to just $24 a month for an over-the-counter PPI.

"For most consumers, over-the-counter, generic drugs will treat their frequent heartburn and acid reflux just as well as more expensive prescription drugs, and save them money too," said Lisa Gill, editor, prescription drugs, Consumer Reports Health. "We think doctors have been too quick to prescribe expensive, prescription medications when a generic or an over-the-counter would work just as well."

The first and best bet to settle your stomach is to try an inexpensive, over-the-counter antacid (such as Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, Tums, or their generic versions) or an H2 blocker (Pepcid AC, Zantac 150, or their generic versions). People who suffer from heartburn twice a week or more for weeks or months on end may have GERD, short for gastroesophageal reflux disease, a condition that makes you prone to acid reflux. Those people should see their doctor. They may need a PPI.

Consumer Reports Health notes that people who do need PPIs could save about $200 a month by asking their doctor for an alternative to Nexium such as Prilosec OTC or its generic version, omeprazole OTC, which costs less than $1 a day. Preavacid24HR, an over-the-counter version of Prevacid, could arrive as early as mid-November, providing another good option for consumers.

Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs, which rates more than 200 prescription drugs to treat more than 20 common conditions, is part of a larger initiative by the new Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center to provide consumers with health ratings based on independent and unbiased review of the best scientific evidence available, also known as Comparative Effectiveness Research. Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs reports in Spanish are available for free at www.consumerreportsenespanol.org.

Help for Heartburn

  • Track how often you get heartburn, so you can tell your doctor.
  • Eat smaller meals, lose weight, and avoid alcohol.
  • Try over-the-counter antacids such as Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, or Tums, or one of many acid-reducing drugs known as an H2 blockers, such as cimetidine (Tagamet HB), famotidine (Pepcid AC), nizatidine (Axid AR) or ranitidine (Zantac 150). These are available as low-cost generics as well.
  • See a doctor if symptoms persist.
  • Compare cost and effectiveness of different PPIs if your doctor recommends one; check to see if your insurance covers over-the-counter PPIs.

October 2009

The material above is intended for legitimate news entities only; it may not be used for commercial or promotional purposes. Consumer Reports(R) is published by Consumers Union, an expert, independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves. To achieve this mission, we test, inform, and protect. To maintain our independence and impartiality, Consumers Union accepts no outside advertising, no free test samples, and has no agenda other than the interests of consumers. Consumers Union supports itself through the sale of our information products and services, individual contributions, and a few noncommercial grants.

SOURCE Consumers Union


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